Qantas’ decision to stop stood-down workers from accessing their sick leave has been upheld by Australia’s highest court.
A group of unions sought to reverse the national airline’s policy for those placed on the now-expired JobKeeper program, saying it was “cynical and callous” and harmed employees seeking treatment for illnesses such as cancer.
A Federal Court appeals bench in November rejected the unions’ claim, saying that because the employees were not working there was nothing to take leave from. Qantas won an earlier Federal Court case in May.
The group of unions on Friday sought leave to appeal those decisions to the High Court, arguing Qantas was acting “like a corporate dictator”.
However the High Court on Friday upheld the Federal Court’s ruling.
The unions argued a number of Qantas workers couldn’t afford to get by on JobKeeper while sick and wanted to use the sick leave – paid at regular rates, rather than JobKeeper rates – they had accrue d.
The staff were entitled to annual and long service leave, as well as the JobKeeper payments, but requests for sick leave were denied by Qantas.
Some 20,000 Qantas workers were stood down in mid-March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted border closures and widespread lockdowns.
“It is difficult to admit as a community that Qantas, which we have a special place for in our national psyche, has an executive team and a board that is backing in reprehensible behaviour,” Transport Workers’ Union national secretary Michael Kaine told reporters earlier on Friday.
It comes after Qantas on Thursday forecast a total revenue loss of $16 billion by the end of the 2021 fiscal year due to the pandemic.